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Osadniks (Polish: osadnik/osadnicy, "settler/settlers, colonist/colonists") was the Polish loanword used in Soviet Union for veterans of the Polish Army that were given land in the Kresy (current Western Belarus and Western Ukraine) territory ceded to Poland by Polish-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty of 1921 (and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939).



Shortly before the battle of Warsaw on August 7, 1920, the Premier of Poland Wincenty Witos announced, that after the war volunteers and soldiers who served on the front would have priority in purchase of state-owned land, while the soldiers to receive medals for bravery would receive land free of charge. The announcement was one of the means to repair the Polish morale, shaken after the retreat from the east. On December 17 the Sejm passed the Act on Nationalization of North-Eastern Powiats of the Republic[1] and Act on Granting the Soldiers of the Polish Army with Land[2]. Both of these acts allowed the demobilized soldiers to apply for land parcels.

In the spring of 1921 the first groups of settlers arrived to newly-constructed settlements in what formerly constituted the property of major Russian landowners: dvoryanstvo (Russian nobility) and tsar, and in Russian government lands ("kazyonnye zemli"). Although the government promised help to the settlers, in fact most of them received little but the land itself. At times the regiments in which the soldiers served provided them with forage and demobilized horses. Permanent economical difficulties of the newly reestablished state as well as strong opposition to the idea of creation of soldier settlements along the eastern border of Poland, made the action to be halted in 1923. By then, out of 99,153 applicants only 7,345 actually received the parcels. Altogether the land granted to the demobilized soldiers amounted to 1,331.46 km²[3]. Although after the May Coup d'Etat of 1926 the action was restarted, it never gained significant momentum and came to a complete halt between 1929 and 1933. Altogether, the osadnik families received over 6000 km² of land. Most of the military settlers were members of the Settlers' Union (Polish: Związek Osadników). The organization, founded as early as March 1922, promoted self-organization of osadnik communities, provided them with cheap credits, scholarships at various universities of agriculture and founded a number of schools.

After the 1939 invasion of Poland, the term became one of the categories of crimes as osadniks were en masse deported to Northern European Russia, Ural and Siberia according to the Sovnarkom Decree about special settlement and labor engagement of "osadniks" deported from Western areas of USSR and BSSR of December 29, 1939. It was broadened to include all formerly Polish citizens who purchased any land after 1918, be them real settlers from other parts of Poland or local peasants who bought land in neighbouring villages[4]. Estimated 140,000 osadniks were deported on February 10, 1940[3], be them real or alleged osadniks. The majority of them (about 115,000) were of Polish nationality, also about 10,000 Ukrainians, 11,000 Belarusians, and about 2,000 others. In GULAG paperwork, osadniks were in a separate category of deportees: "special settlers — 'osadniks' and 'foresters'". After that three more waves of Polish deportations were carried out, classified with different categories. The largest deported Polish population was in Arkhangelsk Oblast; e.g., the whole Polish labor settlements existed in the Kotlas area. High mortality of deported was reported; for example, by July 1, 1941 over 10,000 osadniks were officially reported dead. It is to be noted, that the original settlers formed a much smaller group than those who were labelled as osadniks by the Soviet authorities.

See also


  1. ^ "ustawa z dnia 17 grudnia 1920 r. o przejęciu na własność Państwa ziemi w niektórych powiatach Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej". Dziennik Ustaw 4 (17). 1921.  
  2. ^ "ustawa z dnia 17 grudnia 1920 r. o nadaniu ziemi żołnierzom Wojska Polskiego". Dziennik Ustaw 4 (18). 1921.  
  3. ^ a b (Polish) Klara Rogalska (2005). "Oni byli pierwsi (They were the first)". Głos znad Niemna 7 (664) (February 18): –.  
  4. ^ (Polish)Karolina Lanckorońska (2001). "I - Lwów". Wspomnienia wojenne; 22 IX 1939 - 5 IV 1945. Kraków: ZNAK. p. 364. ISBN 83-240-0077-1.  
  1. Павел Полян (2001). Не по своей воле... (Pavel Polian, Against Their Will... A History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR). ОГИ Мемориал, Moscow, 2001. ISBN 5-94282-007-4.  
  2. Janina Stobniak-Smogorzewska (2003). Kresowe osadnictwo wojskowe 1920-1945 (Military colonization of Kresy 1920-1945). Warsaw, RYTM, 2003. ISBN 83-7399-006-2.  

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